This weekend wasn’t the first time I’ve watched you dance. It wasn’t the first time that I’ve hung on the edge of my seat, oblivious to everyone else in the room. It wasn’t the first time your very existence has brought me to tears.
This weekend was also not the first time I’ve seen what goes on off-stage. I’ve been a dance mom, albeit a disorganized, forgetful, unprepared one, for two years. Not long enough to be a card-carrying member, but long enough to know that it’s not all smiles and glitter.
And it wasn’t the first time that I have heard some of the most talented and beautiful children I have ever seen in my life berate themselves on their way to the dressing room. The pain in their eyes as real as any I’ve ever felt as an adult.
No, it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard them. But it was the first time I heard you.
And it took every ounce of my strength not to pack up those costumes, pick you up in my arms and take you home where I could hold you and remind you how close to perfect you really are. Just so you know.
I am so proud of how seriously you take this opportunity. You are silly sometimes, even a bit naughty now and then. You have been known to talk out of turn more than anyone really should, but I have no doubt that inside, you appreciate every moment you have spent in the studio and on the stage. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be there. And neither would you.
I want you to continue to grow. I want you to strengthen the virtues your father and I have worked so hard to instill in you. I want you to be honest with yourself about your strengths, as well as your weaknesses. I want you to always remember that you don’t have to be the best, but I want you to continue striving to always be your best.
But there’s something else you need to know. And you need to understand it thoroughly.
When the love stops, the ride’s over.
And I don’t mean the first time you have a bad day. Or the first time you have a bad week. I don’t mean the first time you lock yourself in your room, refusing to go to dance because you got in trouble or you can’t figure out the routine or your friends are mad at you for messing up on stage. God knows we’ve been there already. No, that’s not even close to what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the love of the dance. The love of the art. And, above all, the love of yourself.
You asked me the whole way home if I noticed this mistake and that mistake. But when I watch you dance, I don’t notice your mistakes. I don’t notice when your team isn’t in perfect formation or when you are a little off-count.
I’m too busy watching the beauty in your every move. I’m too proud of how you put yourself on that stage, knowing that the most critical and cruel people I have ever met in my life, all of whom expect more of you than they have ever expected of themselves, are waiting to critique your every move.
And I’m not talking about the judges or your teachers. I’ve seen what they expect of you. And I’ve seen what they expect of themselves. The actions, not just the words, of your teachers tell me they love you. And I believe them.
Maybe you didn’t score every point possible. Maybe you spent a little bit of time doing your own dance. But at the end of the day, you aren’t only a dancer. You are a person. And if dancing ever makes you a not-so-nice person, it’s time to stop.
Do not believe that you are going to do better by making yourself feel worse. You’re smarter than that.
Remember, God doesn’t care what we do as much as He cares how we do it.
Don’t dance to win. Don’t dance to please someone else. Don’t dance to meet some arbitrary criteria on a piece of paper.
Dance because you love it. Dance because you love your team. Dance because you love bringing beauty in the world. Dance because you love you.
I’m not a dance teacher. Far from it. But if there is one thing in this world that I am good at, it is being your mom. And nothing will get in the way of that.
I restrained myself this weekend, but I make no promises for the future.
Now, go out there and dance your heart out.
I love you. And I am so proud of you.
Always, always. Forever and ever.
No matter what.